InterrogAsian: The Hybrid Issue

Hyphen's sensei of sensibility answers your questions about Asian culture.

August 1, 2007

Dear InterrogAsian,

I'm really into hands and Asian men have some of the most slender, feminine hands I've seen. So is there an explanation for the long pinky nail I sometimes see on Asian men's mitts?

-Finger Nut

The nail has come a long way, baby. In the '80s, the long pinky nail was a dead giveaway for someone hooked on the booger sugar. Today, it's become a cross-cultural fad to represent pimp-ish ways (see Snoop Dogg). But in Asian culture, the nail's origins are as varied as they are apocryphal. Much like the long mole hair (see issue 11), the freakishly long pinky nail goes back to ancient times, is similar in its symbolism of wealth, good breeding and current or future prosperity. Mostly it's a chick magnet, the Qing dynasty equivalent of a soupedup Honda Civic with nitrous hookup and 22-inch rims. So why do Asian men continue this tradition today? I've encountered a few of these long pinky nailed-dudes and whenever I've inquired, the reasoning was more operational than vanity: cleaning ears and noses, scratching butts, opening CDs and DVDs, reaching the ESC key on the keyboard. Behind the front, the nail is meant to show upward mobility by projecting one's lack of manual labor skills. It's a bit of overkill; isn't a rice rocket, a grill and a gold chain already trying hard enough?


Dear InterrogAsian,

Are Filipinos the "black" Asians?


Who thinks of these things? It reminds me of those scenarios: "Who would win in a fight between Superman and Aquaman?" (Answer: Wonder Woman). The assumption, of course, is that blacks and Filipinos share similar social characteristics. Hey, the Koreans and Irish share a love of drinking, fighting and eating cabbage, too. Why not waste a couple of hours thinking about that, too? Instead of conducting a pseudoscientific experiment, why not align ourselves with the united cause: to overthrow the racist paradigm that holds down our brothers and sisters in the struggle. The more relevant question is whether Asians hate blacks. The answer: We hate delusional racist wack jobs that write bad dragon science fiction. Kenneth Eng ("I hate blacks" columnist from AsianWeek), your Asian pass is revoked.


Dear InterrogAsian,

I'm a sushi beginner but have never eaten at the sushi bar. It just seems so intimidating. What are some etiquette rules so I don't act like a total rube? And what do you like to order?

-Sick of California Rolls in Peoria, IL

Finally, a great question! Sushi is my thing. I order off the chalkboard with the funky lettering. I make intricate origami chopstick stands with the paper wrapper. I can tell the harvest season of the rice just by touching it. I download the latest updates from Tokyo's famous Tsukiji fish market directly onto my Crackberry. The sushi bar is the ultimate open kitchen. At peak hour, it's like watching your favorite band jam or a DJ caught up in the mix. The sushi bar takes on a rhythmic intensity that's electric and addictive. It's a fun, social place to be so don't be embarrassed asking questions. Some quick do's and don'ts: 1) Do order from the chef but pay the server, so the chef doesn't handle your dirty, fecal-flecked dollar bills. 2) Don't order table food at the sushi bar. 3) Refresh others' beers and sakes before refilling yours. 4) Relax! It's a fun place to be. What do I order? I'm all about yamaimo (mountain potato) with a swab of ume (pickled plum), the slimy natto maki, a robust spicy hamachi and a rapturous ikura nigiri.


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